BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, on a secrecy-shrouded trip to China that has drawn criticism from South Korea, apparently left Beijing on Thursday by train after meeting Chinese leaders.
Reclusive Kim arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on propping up his country’s crumbling economy and a push from Beijing for Kim to return to nuclear disarmament talks that he abandoned last year.
But his visit “disappointed” South Korea, unhappy that China has rolled out the red carpet for Kim at a very sensitive time with the North, a senior South Korean official told Reuters.
Kim’s much wealthier southern neighbor is now grappling with how to respond to the sinking in late March of a South Korean navy ship which killed 46 South Korean sailors. It is widely suspected to have been hit by a North Korean torpedo.
Security has been raised at hotels in the Chinese border city of Dandong, which looks into North Korea across the Yalu River, suggesting that Kim may be headed home rather than other parts of China.
Kim was thought to have visited the Great Wall on Thursday, after a motorcade resembling the one he travels in swept out of the state guesthouse where he was lodged.
Traffic radio announced a shutdown of the motorway to Badaling, a restored part of the Great Wall that is a favorite destination for foreign dignitaries including Richard Nixon, over three decades ago.
China has not formally acknowledged Kim’s visit, but police closures of motorways and train stations have allowed reporters and Chinese citizens to track his route. Kim only travels by land.
“As if it weren’t enough to be a scourge to your own people, you have to come here and be a scourge to the Chinese people as well,” was a post grumbling about the traffic restrictions on a Tsinghua University messaging site.
Others dubbed Kim a “poor relation” and “Fat Kim,” warned him not to come “begging” in China or just told him to “go home.”
Only a handful of Chinese newspapers have carried articles about the trip, in each case citing reports by foreign media.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Thatcher in Seoul; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim